July 16--BRIDGEPORT -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took on the White House's criticism of Connecticut roads Tuesday, defending his administration's record on transportation expenditures, saying it has greatly increased since his predecessor, even though he has diverted some of it to other uses.
Malloy was responding to criticism by Republicans and the federal report on the condition of the nation's roads and bridges that was issued this week to convince Congress to find money to replenish the Highway Trust Fund.
The White House report found that 41 percent of the 21,414 miles of roads in Connecticut are in poor condition; a total of 35 percent of the state's bridges were characterized as structurally deficient, which means they need repairs, not that they are unsafe.
The report said 9,612 jobs are at stake in Connecticut if the Highway Trust Fund, projected to dry up next month, is not replenished.
Raids on the state's Special Transportation Fund have been going on for more than a decade with $1.27 billion raised by fuel taxes from 2005 to 2013 used for other purposes, according to an analysis by CtMirror.
Malloy's first budget was in effect in fiscal 2011-12, with the previous raids taking place during the administration of then-Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, although the state legislature was Democratic.
Under Malloy's administration, $189 million has been diverted to other uses, while in the next fiscal year he has signed a bill that prohibits the fund going forward from being used for anything but transportation needs.
Malloy, in an impromptu press conference in Bridgeport after talking there about awarding grants to reduce gun violence, addressed questions on transportation. Later in the day, his staff put out a press release that said Malloy would be back in the Park City Wednesday, for a press conference "to make a major transportation announcement for the city."
The governor said his transportation investments have been 147 percent greater than the last budget approved by Rell for 2011, and are 165 percent greater than the one approved in 2010.
"We are spending a lot more money to play catchup," Malloy said.
He said a major transit project or highway repair can take a decade to go from initial feasibility to design to bidding and completion.
"One of things that is scary about what is going on in Washington right now is we have in excess of 80 projects that are ready to go out to bid in October for spring start. If they don't get their act together in Washington, we probably can't go out to bid on those projects," Malloy said.
There may be a solution in the works, however, for the Highway Trust Fund, according to U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney, D-2.
He issued a statement Tuesday that he voted for an eight-month fix for the fund to keep it from going into bankruptcy until there is another crisis in May 2015.
"The men and women who work Connecticut's building trades, community leaders who point to decaying bridges and roads in eastern Connecticut, and commuters who just want to travel safely and efficiently in their region tell me that one of the most important things Congress could do now to boost our economy would be to pass a long-term and robust infrastructure investment bill," Courtney said.
He said the interim fix reflects the "bankruptcy of ideas" in the Congress.
Both state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney and Tom Foley, the Republican contenders for governor heading to an Aug. 12 primary, have been highly critical of the continuing practice of filling budget holes with transportation funds.
State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, who is expected to replace McKinney as minority leader, weighed in on the transportation issue Tuesday.
"The White House report proves what Republicans have been saying all along: Connecticut's governor has failed to improve transportation in our state. His poor budget decisions have severely jeopardized the safety of Connecticut's roads, bridges and railways. The resulting problems spell disaster for our state," Fasano said in a statement.
The report found that across the country. 65 percent of roads are "rated in less than good condition," that 25 percent of bridges require "significant repair or can't handle today's traffic," and that 45 percent of Americans lack access to transit.
Malloy said Connecticut has "committed on the high end of state dollars" as the in-state contribution to the 80 pending projects,
The governor downplayed the raids.
"We're putting more money in transportation, including transit, than we have in the past, every single year. We are spending much more money on transportation today than the day I became governor. I'm not defensive about it. I'm proud of it. What Republicans are trying to do is have you not understand that and not look at it," he said.
Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr., in a statement, said Malloy's policies "cheat commuters today and will penalize them with poor service in the future due to his under-investment in transportation today."
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